Very nice people can also commit racist acts.

Please read this excellent column in NYT by Ta-Nehisi Coates:

In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist. In 1957, neighbors in Levittown, Pa., uniting under the flag of segregation, wrote: “As moral, religious and law-abiding citizens, we feel that we are unprejudiced and undiscriminating in our wish to keep our community a closed community.”

The idea that all racists are bad people has given way to the conclusion that only bad people can be racists. This reduction has created an environment in which everyone agrees that racism is a bad thing, but it’s nearly impossible to call a spade a spade.

The focus should not be on racist individuals. The focus should be on ideas, actions and policies that give rise to inequities and unfair treatment. Good people can do harmful, hurtful things and defend a status quo that hurts some people more than others. If everyone who participated in an unbalanced system was a terrible person, the world would contain nothing but terrible people. Let’s not mistake social criticism for character assassination.